‘Retirement as it Should Be’


"When are you going to retire?” I recently asked someone I have known for quite a while.

“Shoot, I’m never going to retire, I’m having too much fun,” he responded.  “When I go, it's going to be on a beach, with a camera in my hand, taking pictures of gorgeous sunsets… and my last words will be, ‘Get the film.’”  He is a very successful individual and certainly capable of kicking back into retirement mode at any time.

In many respects, his attitude toward retirement is representative of the changing attitudes about retirement and how one should live the final third of a lifetime. 

Life expectancies have made tremendous gains over the last century, more than any other time in history.  In 1900, life expectancy was around 47.  Today it is around 77, and for a male reaching age 65 it is closer to 80.  Many of us will live more years past age 65 than we spent working!

As this person’s comments suggest, retirement today is not your father’s retirement!  More and more retirees, having accumulated enough wealth to afford the lifestyle of their choice, are choosing to pursue active second careers.  This has a very positive effect on the economy since these people are highly productive, and highly capable of continuing to contribute to our economic system.

I recently met a man who had retired from local industry about eight years ago.  He and his wife retired to the southern United States where they spent the first four years building a drop-dead, gorgeous home with all the toys and electronic gadgetry you can imagine.  He was selling his home when we met, so I asked the obvious, “Why?”  His response was simple.  He and his wife built the house and then looked at each other and asked “What now?”  So they have decided to buy a farm and build a new house… a non-productive retiree returning to productivity.

Economist Harry Dent, in his book “The Roaring 2000s Investor,” redefines retirement as a “time of freedom when you can do what you really want, what is most meaningful to you, after you are freed of the obligations for career and child rearing … a time to pursue your highest lifestyle and goals.”

Dent goes even farther by suggesting that we consider moving into this phase in our life, which Maslov called “self-actualization,” earlier rather than later.  He makes a point of noting that the most important dimension of a person’s financial plan should not be merely how to financially survive retirement, but how to create the lifestyle and life work that is most desirous, that most closely matches your dreams and aspirations, and most contributes to society.

I often find myself thinking that life is a little backwards—when we have the money to enjoy climbing mountains, traveling around the globe, or playing 36 holes of golf every day, we’ve run out of energy and physical capabilities to do so.  When we have all the energy and physical resources to pursue those activities, we haven’t the money or the time.

“What would you do if you had 10 years to live and $10 million in the bank?” asks Jim Collins, author of Built to Last.  If you can answer this, you are beginning to get a vision of what life can be… a goal for your future we might say.

Retirement should be more than dying rich, never having enjoyed the freedom that wealth can bring.  If that happens, chances are the kids will take your money and party… all in your honour!

Les McDermott, MBA, CFP, R.F.P., FMA, FCSI,  is a Vice President and Senior Financial Planning Advisor with Assante Capital Management Ltd. in Sarnia (519-332-4141) providing personal financial planning services for clients seeking to simplify and enhance their personal financial lives (www.mcdermott.ca).  Information in this article should not be construed as tax, investment or insurance advice.  Consult a qualified financial planning advisor familiar with your specific situation.  Assante Capital Management Ltd. is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund and is registered with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. 

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